History

The history of Shotley St. John

The history of the Church in Shotley goes back into the mists of time and it has to be traced from the Abbey of Blanchland, to St. Andrew's Church at Grey Mare Hill, to the present Parish Church at Snods Edge, Shotley.
In the year 1500 Shotley was part of the Barony of Bolbeck whose Lord at that time was the Earl of Westmorland. By 1663 most of the farms were held freehold. Surveys in 1570 and 1608 show a tenement called SNOLDES whose proprietor was Cuthbert Readshaw. In 1666 he conveyed two-thirds of this tenement to John Johnson of Ebchester Hill.
Following the Bolbeck Common Enclosure Act of 1771, flexibility of farm boundaries took place and by 1884 the majority of farms were owned by the three great landowners of the parish. These were the estates of Shotley Hall, Belsay Castle and Minsteracres. By this time the Snods had become part of Shotley Hall Estate.
Note:- There are two possible derivations of the place name of "Snods". One is the word "Snode" meaning "Snowy", derived from the Old English word "Snawede". The other derivation, which seems to be the more probable, is "a smooth, sleek and even slope of a high hill".
The family of Andrews of Field-head had a long association with the chapelry of Shotley. John Andrews was a leasehold tenant in 1570, and was succeeded by his son Nicholas, whose name appears in the 1608 survey. Their descendants continued to hold Field-head, Waskerley and other lands until 1800 when the estate was sold by the daughters and co-heiresses of John Andrews to Arthur Mowbray of the South Bailey, Durham. Mr. Mowbray was a member of the firm of Mowbray Hollingsworth & Co. bankers, which fell into difficulties in 1815; whereupon the Shotley Hall estate was sold under Court of Chancery and was purchased in 1818 by Thomas Walker who lived at Berryhill in the parish of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. In his will dated April 13th 1827, Thomas Walker gave his real estate to his three nephews, Samuel, Henry, and Joshua whom in 1830 sold the Shotley Hall estate to John Wilson, of Nent Hall, Cumberland.
The Wilson family in 1836 donated land and funds for the erection of a place of worship. This was to replace the ruined St. Andrews Church at Grey Mare Hill. The latter was built in 1769 on the site of a much older church. As well as some fine 18th century headstones in the churchyard, there is also the fantastic domed structure of the Hopper Mausoleum, erected in 1752, with obelisks above and statues in carved niches on the sides. This church was used until the middle of the 18th century when due to increasing numbers of parishioners and the church falling into disrepair partly due to pit workings it was replaced by St. John’s Church. St. Andrews is now a redundant church managed by the Churches Conservation Trust.
On 1st January 1837 "a handsome and commodious Chapel of Ease, in the parish of Shotley was opened for divine service, when an eloquent and appropriate sermon was preached on the occasion by the Rev. W. N. Darnell, Rector of Stanhope. Lord Crewe's Trustees, the patrons, endowed the Chapel and very liberally subscribed towards its erection". - Local Papers.
This building, dedicated to St. John, was consecrated on 30th August, 1837, and subsequently became the Parish Church. Near it were built a parsonage house, a school and a teacher's house.
An interesting extract is taken from "Old Bywell" Church Reader 1889.
"Since the opening of the organ on 25th April 1889, there has been a marked improvement in the attendance at St. John's Church, Shotley, due no doubt, partly to the addition, but not less, I believe, to the fact that the church had previously been thoroughly cleaned and the pews made more comfortable."
The lych-gate at the entrance to the churchyard was erected in memory of Lucy Walton-Wilson, who died following an accident at Simonburn Rectory on 7th November, 1901. The oak used in the erection of the lych-gate was actually grown on the family estate at Shotley Hall.
In 1903 the chancel was extended with a five-sided Apse containing stained glass windows financed by the Walton-Wilson’s of Shotley Hall. The church has a number of stained glass windows designed to high standards. The Grade 2 listed building contains a number of stained glass windows by the Victorian business of Bell and Beckham including Our Lord enthroned bearing the Orb and the Cross, St. Lucy with the Lighted Lamp, The Blessed Virgin Mary with the Lily and St. Thomas with the Builders’ Rule. Nine of the windows are memorials to people associated with the parish. Four acknowledging the contribution the Wilson family made to the church as well as some who were killed in action during the first and second world wars. A modern window (1996) installed at the West end of the church in memory of William Westgarth, a Lay reader, who spent some 30 years at St. John’s and was also awarded an MBE for his work throughout the local community.
The chancel floor contains Victorian Minton tiles in good condition.
The church is an edifice of stone in the Early Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, nave, south porch and campanile tower with church bell. 
The church interior contains a plain chamfered arch to the south door. Double chamfered 4-centre arch to organ chamber; richly moulded chancel arch in C13 style. Pilasters and string course to chancel; credence table and piscina with shelf. Minton tiles, good early C20 glass in apse. The Nave roof has collar-beams on moulded corbels. Early C19 creed and commandment boards.
The church includes an Altar; Pulpit; Lectern; Font; Stained glass; Bell ; Organ;  Registers; Pews and other woodwork; Communion rails ; Brass and silver items; Paintings, Tapestry. 
In 1923 the church was lit by two petrol double lamps in the nave and by a single petrol lamp in the chancel. In 1925 a plan was approved to re-seat the church with oak pews, to replace and re-site the pulpit, prayer desk and font, the latter now being sited at the West end of the church. Electric lights were installed in 1957 with a blower for the organ. 
In 1962 the boiler was converted for oil central heating. 
In 1976 pews were removed from the chancel and replaced with two Priests’ Stools a further two were added later.
The open churchyard is well maintained and there is also an additional half-acre of land purchased for future burials. There is a war memorial situated in the churchyard which records the names of 15 parishioners who lost their lives in the two world wars 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. The memorial bears the inscription “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Throughout the past history of Shotley Low Quarter a number of family names regularly appear such as the Hopper’s, Andrews and Wilsons, or Walton Wilsons. John Wilson lived in Shotley Hall with his son Thomas Wilson who died in 1880. Thomas was succeeded by his nephew J.W.Walton who by his uncle’s will was required to assume the name and arms of Wilson’s in addition to his own hence the surname Walton Wilson. At the churchyard at St. Andrews there are a number of graves for the Hopper family. At St. John’s there are a number of graves for the families of the Wilsons and Walton Wilsons.
The small hamlet of Greenhead was the birthplace of John Graham Lough born in January 1798 the son of a blacksmith. Having attracted the attention of Mr. Silvertop of Minsteracres he was apprenticed to John Marshall a stonemason of Shotley Field. After he had completed his apprenticeship in 1823 he carved the decorations on the library at the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle. His best known works are the Collingwood Monument at Tynemouth, The George Stephenson Monument in Newcastle, The Queen Victoria Monument at Royal Exchange in London, the Prince Consort Statue at Lloyds and the Southey Memorial in Crossthwaite Church near Keswick. He is also reputed to have been responsible for several of the grave-stones in St. Andrews churchyard.

(Extracts from booklet compiled by George S. Nash)